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Reviving of a CAL/LIAT partnership

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

Reviving of a CAL/LIAT partnership

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Now that the regulatory bodies for civil aviation in Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago have decisively determined the fate of REDjet airline, in the wake of its own decision to suddenly suspend flight operations, the focus must now be on what’s next – to ensure sustainability of more reliable and better intra-regional air transportation service.
REDjet has become the latest private sector-owned casualty in the Caribbean Community where governments are still avoiding the central challenge of ownership – wholly or in partnership with Caribbean and foreign investors – of a regional airline.
This is the region where the governments of Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica had to bite the bullet and merge carriers and human resources and for Caribbean Airline (CAL) to continue enjoying subsidised fuel as it keeps hope alive to be a single regional carrier.
But, unfortunately, the apparent obsession to be treated as the single Caribbean airline, out of Trinidad and Tobago, does not seem to include an objective assessment of a partnership role with the oldest and best known intra-regional carrier, LIAT.
Warts and all, without LIAT it would be a grim scene for intra-regional air transportation. And thanks to the commitment of its three shareholder governments  in Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda and St Vincent and the Grenadines, LIAT continues to serve regional destinations whose governments simply fail to back their “cooperation” rhetoric with needed funds.
However, LIAT, which no longer benefits from any government subsidy, is known to have mandated the preparation of a strategic plan by the University of the West Indies (Cave Hill Campus) that focuses on various structural alternatives, including partnership with, for example, CAL.
It would be recalled that a LIAT/CAL (or then BWIA) partnership was once very much on the agenda of a previous administration in Port-of-Spain but then dropped from consideration before a change in government but with continuing rhetoric about the creation of a single airline serving the region.
It is felt by some knowledgeable in regional air transportation that with the merger of Air Jamaica and CAL, negotiations should be pursued for LIAT to now be involved since it would be consistent with the desire, vision and feasible arrangements for a single airline designated to serve the entire Caribbean Community.
Perhaps the LIAT board of directors should signal to the region’s public their thinking on the airline’s future on the basis of the strategic plan to better serve the intra-regional routes – with or without a CAL partnership – desirable as this seems.